On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), a decision commonly referred to as “Brexit.” The UK was set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019; however, the withdrawal agreement received a series of rejections by the UK Parliament and Brexit has been delayed. The debate has been over whether to implement a “soft” Brexit, representing a close trading relationship and regulatory and legal alignment between the UK and the EU, or a “hard” Brexit, which would include no agreement over the future trade relationship and allow the UK to create independent trade deals with other countries.
The food industry is global, and most food and beverage companies import and export products to and from the EU. The same is true for food additive and food ingredient companies. While the general consensus within the food industry is that the UK will have to follow EU regulations regarding food additives, there is concern that the UK will not be able to inform the regulations the same way they did pre-Brexit. The UK would have the option to develop its own new regulations, which would help support the UK government’s autonomy; however, this could produce additional barriers for innovation and market entry. In the case of food additive manufacturers wanting to produce new additives or develop new uses for existing additives, they would likely need to apply for authorization both in the EU and the UK.
The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is closely monitoring Brexit developments, the outcome of which may have widespread impacts on its member companies that operate and/or conduct trade in the UK and the EU. As a global association representing manufacturers and end-users of food additives, IFAC is particularly concerned about the potential implications of the various scenarios (e.g., deal, no deal, delayed exit) on the food industry. IFAC encourages that all parties align on the clear need for – and shared benefits of – limited trade disruptions between the EU and UK, and rules that support the continued growth and success of their respective markets. In addition, as IFAC strongly supports global harmonization of food additive standards and specifications to help cultivate a more responsible food environment and promote global trade, IFAC is hopeful that food regulations in the UK will not deviate far from the EU.
Below are several resources for companies concerned about Brexit’s impact on the food and beverage industry:
- The UK government has developed an online tool for preparing your business or organization for the UK leaving the EU.
- The European Commission has also issued a list of guidance notes and links which address issues of concern to the food industry, including trade, health and food safety, chemicals regulations, competition, and trademarks.
- For advice from the UK government on food label changes in a no deal Brexit, click here.
- The EU has published Guidance on labeling requirements titled “Notice to Stakeholders – Withdrawal of the United Kingdome and EU Food Law and EU Rules on Quality Schemes”
- For information on trading and labeling organic food in a no deal Brexit, click here.
- For rules around Bioengineered (BE) organisms (or “GMOs”) in a no deal Brexit, click here.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of the UK has published guidance for data protection if there is no Brexit deal. The ICO has also provided a checklist highlighting six steps to take to prepare for data protection compliance if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.